Coventry Hitmakers

DELIA DERBYSHIRE

If you use the words ‘electronic music’ and ‘pioneer’ together, then along with Theremin and Stockhausen, Delia Derbyshire’s name would be undoubtedly mentioned. As part of the BBC Electronic Workshop, it was Delia’s groundbreaking arrangement of the “Doctor Who” theme that helped give the series its brooding atmosphere. You would be hard pushed to find anyone that could not recite those famous sound bars from one of Britain’s favourite teatime television shows. Delia passed away in Northampton on July 3rd 2001. A play based on Delia’s life entitled “Standing Wave” by the ‘Reeling & Writhing’ theatre company ran at the Tron theatre in Glasgow in October 2004. The museum is honoured to have one of Delia’s tape records, be sure to check it out in the 60’s area.

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“She worked very hard to achieve the effect that she wanted especially the rhythm loop, and she had been allowed the time to get it right, which often wasn’t the case when she was at the BBC. She was a perfectionist and it was very hard to get her to stop work on a piece when she thought that it could still be improved, even though it sounded absolutely fine to other people. Brian Hodgson, who collaborated with her a great deal, says that he often had to copy tapes or hide them before Delia attempted to wipe them and start over again.

She was happy enough with the Doctor Who theme but when she played it to other people she was amazed by their reactions. Nobody had heard a piece of electronic music quite like it before and it captured the mood of the programme perfectly. I think what made her most proud was the reaction of the composer Ron Grainer, who loved it. Ron had not written electronic music before and readily admitted that Delia had changed his original idea so much that she should be credited as the writer. I don’t think that Delia ever approved of the subsequent Dr Who themes.”

Her former partner Clive Blackburn

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